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Taken from Jim Baen’s Universe Vol 1 Num 4, 5 & 6

Merged, cleaned, re-formatted & proofread by nukie.

Color: -1- -2- -3- -4- -5- -6- -7- -8- -9-

Text Size: 10- 11- 12- 13- 14- 15- 16- 17- 18- 19- 20- 21- 22- 23- 24

Slan Hunter

Written by Kevin J. Anderson and Lydia van Vogt

Illustrated by Jennifer Miller

Table of Contents

Part 1

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

Part 2

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

Part 3

CHAPTER 29

CHAPTER 30

CHAPTER 31

CHAPTER 32

CHAPTER 33

CHAPTER 34

CHAPTER 35

CHAPTER 36

CHAPTER 37

CHAPTER 38

CHAPTER 39

CHAPTER 40

CHAPTER 41

CHAPTER 42

CHAPTER 43

Part 1

CHAPTER 1

^
»

The world was already falling apart when her first contractions hit.

“Perfect timing—” Anthea Stewart clenched her teeth to stop a hiss of pain, holding her

rounded abdomen.

Beside her, driving recklessly, her husband Davis said, “Don’t worry, Anth. I’ll get you

there in time.” He took a hard right so that the wide whitewalled tires squealed on the asphalt.

“Plenty of time. Don’t you worry about a thing.” The hospital was just ahead. He accelerated.

“Why are you telling
me
not to worry? Because you’re doing all the work?”

“I’m doing every bit as much as I can.” He flashed her a grin so full of love that she forgot

the pain. Then Anthea gripped the handrest as she concentrated on the spasms, the clenching

of her muscles, and the restless baby inside her.

She felt a strange, bittersweet anticipation. Soon, the healthy infant she had carried for nine

months would emerge into the world. He would no longer be an integral part of her, and their

lives would be permanently changed. But Anthea looked forward to it with anticipation as well

as trepidation. She would stop being a “pregnant woman” and become a “mother”; they would

stop being a “married couple” and become a “family.” The thought brought a smile to her lips.

So many changes ahead!

The AM radio blared, laced with occasional threads of static, as the edgy-sounding

announcer talked about the current crisis. Davis had turned on the car radio as he drove,

hoping for some soothing music for his wife, but the emergency broadcasts were not

comforting. “Slan attack imminent. Radar images show the possibility of numerous enemy

ships approaching.”

Anthea wiped sweat from her forehead and turned to look at him. Davis was alarmingly

pale, disturbed by the tense news as well as having the jitters of an expectant father. He turned

the knob again, trying a different station.

“—President Kier Gray arrested. The world has been rocked to learn that their leader was

secretly a slan in disguise. The noted slan hunter John Petty, chief of the secret police, has

assumed provisional control of the government after making the arrest himself. Several of the

President’s cabinet members, also shown to be slans, were killed in the altercation. Gray’s

arrest raises the uncomfortable question of how many more of the telepathic mutants might be

living among us, completely unnoticed.”

Davis snapped off the radio in disgust. “I guess we’ll just have to hum if we want music.” A

slow-moving car driven by an old man hunched over the steering wheel swerved out of the

way as Davis rushed past.

“How could Kier Gray be a slan?” Anthea said, trying to distract herself. “I thought they all

had tendrils coming out the back of their heads. He couldn’t possibly have hidden what he

was.”

“Don’t underestimate how devious they can be. They use makeup, prosthetics, hair pieces

to cover up their tendrils. It really is a conspiracy.” He stared intently ahead as he drove. “I

wish we’d just wiped them all out during the Slan Wars.”

She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to sound conversational despite the spasms, but she

failed miserably. “It’s not … as if … we didn’t try.”

The telepathic humans were physically superior, with great strength and improved healing

abilities; they considered themselves a master race. Long ago, the mutant slans had tried to

dominate and enslave the rest of humanity. Centuries of warfare ensued as brave humans

fought slans, defeated them, and drove the few survivors into hiding.

Though the media was rife with rumors about an expansive underground slan organization

and numerous concealed bases, only a few loners were ever caught. Sinister slan ships

occasionally flew over the great cities on Earth, sometimes dropping off messages, other times

just gathering reconnaissance. Obviously, the slans were building their numbers, gearing up

for some sort of concerted attack. No wonder humanity was terrified.

Somehow, though, being with Davis made her feel safe, no matter what the radio news

said. Her husband had brown eyes in contrast with her blue ones, dark curly hair as opposed

to her straight, strawberry blonde. But Anthea and Davis Stewart were not opposites: They had

been soul mates since their first meeting. Some romantics called it “love at first sight”; others

talked about chemistry and matching personalities. From the moment she had met Davis, it

seemed their very heartbeats had synchronized. They had known they were meant for each

other. Now with the coming baby, their love, their family, would be stronger than ever before.

Unbearable affection seeped through the concern on his face like fresh rain washing away a

stain. “It won’t be long now, Anth. Just hang on.”

After riding through another contraction, she gave him a strange smile. “No, Davis … no, it

won’t. But I don’t think I can concentrate on politics anymore … okay?”

Davis raced toward the tall, brown-brick Centropolis General Hospital, turning into the

marked driveway for the emergency room entrance. He wasn’t going to let even a planet-sized

war get in the way of the medical attention his wife needed. He pulled up to the curb in front

of the double doors, then jammed the shift lever into park and opened his door all in one

gesture. “Just wait here. I’ll get somebody.”

Anthea was tempted to walk by herself into the emergency room, but then another

contraction hit, harder than the previous ones. “All right,” she gasped. “I’ll just wait here.”

Running into the hospital with his hair mussed, awkwardly waving his arms, Davis looked

utterly adorable. She knew she would never forget that sight.

Anthea closed her eyes and counted, trying to time the contractions, though it was merely a

trick to occupy her mind. She had always been able to shunt aside pain, to concentrate on her

body. Did all mothers feel so connected to their babies? It wanted to come out—
he
wanted to

be born, and she experienced an inexplicable confidence that the delivery would be smooth.

She had nothing to worry about.

Davis returned in less than a minute, pushing a wheelchair. A gangly orderly jogged along

beside her husband, scolding him and trying to wrest the wheelchair from him, but Davis

wanted to do this himself. The two men quickly helped Anthea out of the car and into the

emergency room waiting area. The orderly shouted for a nurse, who in turn shouted for a

doctor, and they all rushed toward the delivery room.

Anthea looked up just long enough to see several policemen milling about in the

emergency room. A grim-looking, dark-suited man wore an armband with the insignia of the

secret police, a scarlet hammer across a web. A slan hunter here in the hospital? Her thoughts

were fuzzy, but she realized that if the slans were going to attack Centropolis, many casualties

would be pouring into this medical center. Slan terrorists probably thought the hospital would

be a good place to sabotage. What if one of them took her baby? She had heard of the terrible

things slans did to babies…

The man with the armband was scolding a plump woman behind the reception desk. “I

must insist, ma’am. The secret police have the legal authority to inspect all of your admissions

records. I want your carbon copies.”

While halfheartedly clacking away on her manual typewriter, she popped her pink gum

with a sound like the shot from a toy gun. “Sir, don’t you think that if we found a slan in our

treatment rooms we would report it?”

“I need to look at blood tests and any x rays. Their internal organs are different from ours,

you know. President Gray was a slan in disguise—we can’t trust anyone. We have evidence that

there may be a new breed of slans, ones that don’t have tendrils.”

The receptionist continued typing as she talked. “Surgically removed so that they can

infiltrate our society better? I assure you, we would notice such scars.”

The man from the secret police scowled. “That is not for you to decide, ma’am. These new

mutations may even be born without the tendrils. In fact, some of them might not even know

they’re slans.”

The receptionist chuckled nervously. “Oh, come now! How can they not know?”

With a grim expression, the man simply held out his hand. The plump receptionist heaved

a put-upon sigh and turned in her swivel chair. She opened a gray metal filing cabinet and

pulled out the curling carbon-copy records of all recent admissions. Her expression made it

perfectly clear that she thought the secret policeman was wasting her precious time.

The gangly orderly ran back out into the waiting area. “Delivery Room 4 is ready.” In a

rush, he and Davis wheeled Anthea down the hall. A nurse opened the swinging door, but

then she put out a stern hand. “Mr. Stewart, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait out here.”

“I want to be with my wife.” Davis craned his neck to look after her.

“Sorry, sir. Men aren’t allowed inside the delivery room. Go wait with the other nervous

fathers. Hand out cigars to each other.”

Anthea saw his deeply disappointed frown. “Don’t worry, Davis. I’ll be fine. I’ll be here.”

He gave her hand a squeeze. “I love you.”

“You can prove it by changing more than your share of diapers,” she joked. Then the

contractions hit again, and she knew the baby was close.

The rest happened in a blur. She was on the delivery table, her feet up in stirrups. The

doctor, an older man with owlish eyes behind round spectacles, muttered reassuringly, but the

words sounded as if he had memorized them from a script, praises and encouragement that he

used many times a week.

The nurses seemed concerned. Even the doctor was tense, no doubt because of the news on

the radio. One of the nurses said in a quiet voice as if expecting that Anthea couldn’t hear her,

“I don’t know what kind of world that poor baby’s going to be born into. If the slans take over

and enslave us all—”

“Enough of that, Nurse! We have our jobs to do. There are no slans here, only this woman

and her baby, and I’m determined to see that it’s born healthy—healthy enough to fight for the

human race, if it comes to that.” He patted Anthea on the shoulder. “Now don’t you worry,

young lady. Just push. I’m going to coach you through this.”

She closed her eyes. She and Davis were both fit and strong. She couldn’t remember the

last time either of them had even been sick. Yes, the baby would be just fine.

“Now, push again,” the doctor said.

The nurse leaned closer, encouraging. “Push, honey—as hard as you can.”

Anthea did as she was told. It was what her body wanted to do.

The doctor leaned over. “That’s perfect. Easy, now. I can see the top of the head. You’re

almost there.”

Anthea felt a compulsion to press harder, not to let up. The rush of increased pain didn’t

matter. She wished Davis could be there holding her hand, but she reassured herself with the

knowledge that he was just outside the delivery room door. She pushed and pushed again, and

then she knew the baby was coming. Tears streamed through her shut eyes. With a rush of

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